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Hermes (Asteroid 1937UB) – The "One" Lost in 1937 is Found to be a Pair of Huge Objects

October 24, 2003 – Dr. Brian Marsden, Director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, MA, advised that the rediscovery of Hermes by Brian Skiff of the Lowell Observatory Near Earth Object Search project was one of the most important NEO events of the year. An asteroid which had been lost for 66 years has been found and it has now been recognized that Hermes is a binary. Observations done by astronomers using the radar telescope at the Arecibo Observatory, PR, show that each of the two separate objects is about 300 to 450 meters across and orbiting each other. A binary asteroid system with equally sized components is unusual, as most binary objects have a primary body with a smaller satellite.

Dr. Marsden stated that Hermes poses no imminent threat to Earth. The orbital period for Hermes (1937UB) is approximately 2 years and its next close approach to Earth (.048AU, or 7 million km) will be on November 4, 2003. An extrapolation of its orbit verifies there is no chance of Hermes hitting Earth within the next 100 years. However, during the 66 years that it was 'missing', Hermes came within 9 million km of Earth six times, and once, in 1942, Hermes came within 640,000 km of Earth, which is 1.6 times the distance to the Moon.

The Minor Planet Center (MPC) operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, under the auspices of Division III of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and is a nonprofit organization, with principal funding coming from subscriptions to the various services offered by the Center. The MPC is responsible for the efficient collection, computation, checking and dissemination of astrometric observations and orbits for minor planets and comets, via the Minor Planet Circulars (issued monthly) and the Minor Planet Electronic Circulars (issued as necessary).

For more info on the Minor Planet Center, go to:
http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/cfa/ps/mpc.html


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